Look no further than Nolan Long if you want to see how it's done
Not that most of us have time to ponder "what does it all mean?" questions anymore, especially since we must tweet, text and check our phones every three seconds, but have you ever wondered what provides fiber to a community?
(And it's not sprinkling Metamucil on the town green, either).
The answer: All of us. When we gather. When we celebrate. When we volunteer. When we mourn. When we cheer. And sports are somewhere in the great pot of stew. They bring us together. Sometimes, they reveal Lincoln's better angels of our nature. Sometimes … they don't.
But whether you follow local sports, loyally negotiating the morass of daily results in the newspaper, or barely offer a passing glance, you know that occasionally, a kid comes along that transcends it all.
Which is why Waterford owes a salute to Nolan Long, whose uniform won't bear the name of his hometown much longer.
It's easy to notice him, the tallest kid of them all during his days at Waterford High. It's part of his charm: that he sticks out. It happens when you are 6-foot-9. This is the story of a kid who stands out becoming a standout.
Long is playing American Legion Baseball for the next few weeks, giggling along with his Waterford teammates to the musings of new coach Mickey Amanti, a show unto himself. Long leaves July 8 for summer workouts and classes at Division I Wagner College on Staten Island, where he'll play basketball and baseball.
He might return on weekends to play for the Legion. Regardless, his time sporting the name "Waterford" on his uniform are on the 18th green.
Long, whose size qualifies him as Waterford's most aptly named kid ever as well, was the centerpiece of the only boys' basketball team in the 56-year history of the school to win a state championship. He was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2012 state tournament, where what felt like most of the town showed up and celebrated the Class M title at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Later that spring, the San Francisco Giants drafted him as a pitcher. Long decided to attend South Kent, a prep school in western Connecticut, and later chose Wagner.
All notable accomplishments. But they are athletic accomplishments. Many youngins, past and present, can trumpet those in the 06385. But Long's accomplishments transcended the "what." It was the "how."
His height dictated that eyes were perpetually affixed to him. So were expectations. And Long didn't merely deliver a basketball championship and a notable fastball, but a gentlemanly demeanor that, if you look around at recent developments in sports, is needed worse than an aorta.
Example: Long had just finished playing a game Wednesday night at Leary Field when he took some time to chat with a reporter. His little brother and sister, Jackson and Jenna, were about to leave. But they couldn't — and wouldn't — without making their way to the dugout to hug their big brother first. They wore priceless looks of hope and wonder little kids get sometimes, especially when they're looking at one of their heroes.
This just in: Not all siblings act like this. Some would have just left the ballpark. Some would have issued a courtesy wave from afar. Not in the Long household. And that is to be treasured.
Amanti, who has already watched Long defeat New London twice at the field bearing his father's name — Sal Amanti Field — is grateful the big fella decided to play, even if for a few weeks. Amanti knows he would have a powerhouse if everyone eligible to play for his team this summer decided to do so.
"But if you know Nolan and the family, you're not surprised," Amanti said. "Great people."
Long spent some time reminiscing about his time here Wednesday night. The championship is great, he said, but "just wearing the uniform" would be his No. 1 memory.
He's a good kid, that Nolan Long. He will be missed here. Note to all the other kids in and out of Waterford: You'd all do well to mimic his behavior on and off the field. Your communities would be better places.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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